Science and girls? It’s not like splitting the atom

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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It really is about time we fixed the long-running problem of encouraging more girls to study science and maths.

The only science graduate to become prime minister was a woman – Margaret Thatcher.

But why is the solution to wooing more women into science and engineering nearly as elusive as discovering the Higgs Boson particle?

We applaud the University of Portsmouth for the event it ran yesterday at which girls from six secondary schools spent the day being fascinated by the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.

Activities in civil engineering, forensic computing and product design brought these specialisms to life.

Yet the UK has the lowest percentage of women in engineering with just 12 per cent of girls taking engineering degrees.

We should press schools to offer the individual sciences and at 14, offer girls broad careers advice, not reinforce stereotypes.

And companies need to play their part, particularly in this area which because of its deep-rooted links to the defence industries, is ideally placed to inspire young women.

They need to be proactive at every decision point a young woman crosses.

That starts in schools at primary level, then GCSE and A-level choices. The subjects chosen at 14 can very quickly close down career paths.

They can showcase the excitement of working towards a cure for breast cancer, designing the next Spinnaker Tower, the next iPad or reaching for the stars – our first astronaut was Helen Sharman, a chemistry graduate who worked in research and development for Mars.

But influencing a 14-year-old also means influencing parents. Let’s get engineering and technology companies into schools, setting up after-school clubs, providing careers talks and showcasing this exciting world.

Getting girls into STEM subjects will unlock our female talent and at the same time help rebalance our economy.

It’s not rocket science... but, actually, it is. Exactly that.